Can Lady Rebs Rebound Again?

FAYETTEVILLE -- Leave it to veteran Southeastern Conference coach Carol Ross of Ole Miss to put the kibosh on all the talk about faster tempo in the conference this season.

"You can rip and rock all you want in November and December, but you're going to come to a screeching halt in January and February, and walk it up in March," Ross said. "Four months is too long to run all-out. Coaches in this league are too smart, and players are too talented, to allow easy buckets."

Ross knows whereof she speaks.

As the top assistant at Auburn, she helped the deliberate Tigers reach the Women's Final Four three straight seasons (1988-90). As head coach at Florida for 12 years, she averaged more than 20 wins per season. And in her first season at Ole Miss, she took the Lady Rebels to their first NCAA Tournament in eight years.

Ole Miss went 17-14 last season, broke even in the SEC at 7-7 and lost 66-63 to Vilanova in the first round of the NCAA tourney.

"Half the people think last year was a fluke, and it might have been," Ross said. "We'll find out in a month or two."

The Lady Rebs return 5-foot-9 sophomore guard Armintie Price, the 2003 SEC Freshman of the Year, plus 5-4 senior point guard Carletta Brown and 6-3 senior center Amber Watts.

Ross recruited 6-1 forward Dee Forrest, the Mississippi Player of the Year, and added 6-1 forward Jada Mincy, a transfer from Memphis.

"Dee is a stereotypical power forward," Ross said. "Mincy had to sit out last year, so she runs out of the locker room right now."

Until Ross lands some more big players, the Lady Rebs revolve around Price, who averaged 14.9 points last season.

"Armintie needs to stay true to herself - passing the ball, using her abilities, playing the game with a lot of energy and enthusiasm," Ross said.

"I get paid to feel pressure. She doesn't."

That's not really a factor.

"There's no pressure on anyone except the team picked first (Tennessee)," Ross said. "The rest of us are insignificant until we win ballgames."

Ross said the Rebels' pace will depend on how they progress.

"I'm not for or against any style," she said. "The faster we go, the more people who get to play -- 9, 10 or 11. If we slow it down, it'll be 7, 8 or 9. We're a work in progress. We don't have everything we need to be a championship-type program.

"We're not Rome. We're still not built."

To return the Rebels to the empire days of coach Van Chancellor (14 NCAA Tournaments in 16 years), Ross said she must recruit well in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana and her former home, Florida.

Besides Forrest and Mincy, Ross signed 5-9 freshman guards Lindsay Roy and Tasi Worsham from her home base of Mississippi last year.

"Roy walks in the door shooting the ball," Ross said. "She's got a stroke. She'll make 9 out of 10 if you don't guard her.

"Worsham is the power point guard we didn't have. She'll complement Brown at that spot."

Ross also likes Carla Bartee, a 6-1 transfer forward from Western Kentucky who is not yet eligible.

"We're OK -- we haven't lost a game yet," said Ross, laughing. "Not so long ago (1993), LSU didn't win a league game. They slowly, determinedly plugged away, and now they're one of the top programs in the country. There are not a lot of quick fixes in the SEC.

"We've laid a foundation, but we have to be patient."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories